58. Silver Threads

Autumn, 1847

Political tensions are running high. College students expound philosophies outside cafes. The bourgeoisie are ready to take back their government. Some are thinking of an earlier day, when they, too, were young and idealistic. The uprising of 1832 is not yet forgotten, particularly not by those who participated in its barricades.

Dusk is falling as Enjolras makes his way home through the streets. He walks quickly, because he expects visitors to arrive that evening or the next.

The evening is warm and humid, and Manon is therefore a trifle irritable, tugging at the collar of her dress. "Miserable weather. --Are you two coming?" This to her errant offspring, who don't get to see the city every day.

Courfeyrac unloads her bags and his own onto the pavement. "I thought you missed Paris so, ma chère. If I'd known you were going to complain, we could have stayed home." The last two words are a little sharp, because he would really have preferred that, but she insisted.

Jean tears his attention away from the surrounding sights and tugs on his sister's sleeve, but keeps out of the way until the possible impending storm blows over.

Manon turns sharply, taking in a breath to expostulate; but instead she lets it out again, and says only, mildly, "If I didn't complain, you'd ask me what I'd done with your wife."

Celestine answers the tug without looking at her brother. "What?" But her attention is really on the approaching man. Being from a relatively small town, she's used to knowing everyone, so she asks, "Papa, who's that?"

"Yes, I suppose I would," René answers, letting the altercation fade, and looks up at his daughter's question. "Marcelin!"

Manon turns again, brightening. "There's the wretch," she remarks affectionately.

Enjolras takes one of the bags from Courfeyrac. "It's good to see you, Courfeyrac." A nod to Manon, and then his attention shifts to the children. "Let me think. Jean and...Celeste, is it?"

Celestine is put out at this mistake. "No, Celestine!"

"Evening, m'sieur." Jean is somewhat shy, having not so much as seen this man since he was Celestine's age, but he ventures a smile.

Manon rolls her eyes slightly at the nod, but forbears to take offense; it's Enjolras, after all.

"Do forgive me, mademoiselle," Enjolras says formally to the child. He opens the door of the house for Manon. "Do come in. I'll have the maid show you to your rooms."

Manon dips him an elaborate curtsey, with that knowing not-quite-smirk and a mild "Merci", and goes in.

Jean deems it best to go help his father with the baggage.

Courfeyrac hands him a bag. "There, I can take care of the rest." Though really he isn't, because Enjolras has a suitcase as well.

The boy shrugs, and hauls it inside, leaving the adults to their devices and Celestine to whatever pops into her curly head to do.

Enjolras addresses the child. "Do precede me, mam'selle." She blinks at him, unused to the excessive politeness. Her brother normally addresses her as, 'Hey, you'. This is a pleasant change. She goes inside, closely followed by her father and host.

The maid greets Manon with a little surprise. "You're here early, Madame Courfeyrac. Please, follow me." She leads the way to the two rooms that the family will share.

Manon gives the girl a slightly sardonic look, but does not contest this, and follows where she's led.

The guests are shown to relatively large bedrooms, one of which has the definite feeling of an unoccupied room, and the other of which seems to have been cleared out in anticipation of their arrival.

Jean deposits his lone bag in a corner, looking around curiously.

Courfeyrac brings in Celestine's luggage and deposits it on the bed before carting the rest to the other room.

Enjolras follows him to the other room. "I believe this is yours, Manon?"

Manon cannot forbear commenting to Enjolras, as she relieves him of her hatbox, "Charming little place. Yes, thank you."

"Thank you." Enjolras shrugs slightly. "It's just, well, home. Better than those old flats we used to rent."

"God, yes." She glances to Courfeyrac, amused. "Remember the mice, darling?"

"The mice, the hard floors, the rats." Courfeyrac rolls his eyes. "All too well. There is something to be said for having enough money to live comfortably."

Celestine peeps in the door. "Do I really have to stay in the same room as Jean?"

"Quite," and Manon pats Enjolras on the shoulder, turning away to set the box aside. And then, turning back, "Yes."

Enjolras apologizes. "I'm sorry, petite, we just don't have enough rooms for everyone."

Courfeyrac points out to his irritated child, "They're already going out of their way to make room for us as it is. You're in someone else's room."

Manon dusts her skirts off. "Now go on, Celestine. Your brother will help you unpack. No nonsense."

Celestine wants to dally. "He won't help me." That won't keep her away from her brother for long, so she delays by asking, "Whose room is it?"

"Celestine," Manon says a trifle tightly.

"It's all right, Manon," Enjolras says softly. To the child, "My friend Grantaire. He doesn't mind." That's not precisely true, but it works.

Courfeyrac shakes his head very slightly. Marcelin doesn't change. How truly odd. "Out with you, mam'selle. Unpack."

Mildness from Enjolras is sufficient to give Manon pause. She shrugs slightly, and turns back to what she was doing. "I'll come in and help you in a little while."

Celestine gives up. "I'm going!" and she does, slowly.

Enjolras offers, "Do you need any help here?"

Manon glances at Courfeyrac.

"We didn't pack all that much," Courfeyrac answers, looking around, "so, no, not really. Stay, though."

"If you like." Enjolras takes a seat on the bed to stay well out of the way. "How was the journey?"

"Hot. Dusty." Manon shrugs. "Not as long as it might have been."

"The children found everything terribly interesting, once we got into the city proper," Courfeyrac adds. "They wanted a full tour, but we didn't want to take the time."

"Perhaps, if matters settle, we will be able to give them a proper tour before you leave again," Enjolras offers.

Manon tugs a drawer open, starts putting things away. "God willing." She pauses, glancing over her shoulder. "You're looking well."

Enjolras shakes his head, smiling. "You're only flattering me. You two are the ones who are doing well. Your children are lovely; I swear, Jean looks just like you, Manon."

She grins. "I hope not."

"Better than looking like me," Courfeyrac points out, mock-reasonably.

"Well, we can't have that. Two devastatingly handsome men in the same household?"

Enjolras chuckles at that, but quietly.

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much," Courfeyrac answers with a wink. "But, yes, they're growing well." Back to the public voice, instead of the private banter.

Manon goes back to putting clothes away. "Though they'll be the death of me yet."

"Oh, how could they be? Celestine is a little darling," Enjolras says fondly. "She reminds me of Chantal at that age."

"I'm sure Chantal wasn't a hellion," retorts the little darling's mother.

That amuses Enjolras. "She certainly was. Good little girls don't run away from home."

"I don't think Celestine will be doing that any time soon," Courfeyrac says hopefully. "She'd have trouble."

"One can hope," Enjolras observes.

Manon laughs, just as Jean wanders in to hover in the doorway.

Enjolras waves to the boy. "Come in, sit down. You're welcome here."

Jean glances at his parents, and does so, somewhat shyly. "I'm finished," he explains. "She's playing."

Courfeyrac asks warily, "Playing with what?"

Manon chuckles.

Jean rolls his eyes. "Her doll. I wouldn't leave her alone in there if she was getting into things," foolish adult.

Enjolras reassures the parents, "There's nothing particularly breakable in there, now. We took care of that."

Courfeyrac does not look all that comforted, but he shrugs. "She usually respects people's privacy, but we never quite know."

"She may be a cherub," Manon adds dryly, "but she's not all that careful with her wings."

Enjolras raises his eyebrows. "Ah. So she takes after her parents." He shrugs slightly. "Really, I don't think you have to worry."

Jean's eyes widen, and he grins a bit.

Courfeyrac accepts this. "All right. I'll check on her in a few minutes." The tease just makes him shake his head slightly.

Manon chuckles. "Right." She closes the last drawer. "There."

Enjolras nods. "We could go somewhere slightly more sociable."

Jean straightens, preparatory to getting out of the way.

Courfeyrac puts the empty luggage under the bed. "Yes, we might as well, and collect Celestine on the way."

"There's an idea," Manon agrees, tucking back her hair absent-mindedly.

"There's always the parlor," Enjolras points out, standing up. "Are you ready?"

Courfeyrac nods. "Lead on."

Jean ducks out of the doorway swiftly.

"All right. It's just down this hallway." Enjolras leaves the room.

Manon follows the men out, pausing at the next door to collect her daughter.

Courfeyrac shakes his head at Manon and Jean, and follows. As always.

The parlor is not particularly pretentious. It has never needed to be, for the residents of this house do not entertain very often. There are enough seats for the hosts and visitors.

Enjolras frowns at the parlor. "It's small, but it's good enough."

Jean has tagged back to walk with his father, hands tucked in his pockets.

Courfeyrac comments, "It's amazing the money one has without children around."

Celestine is trailing along behind, dangling her dolly by one arm. She does not hear this comment, which is probably good.

Manon shakes her head at Enjolras, amused, and smooths her skirts. "I'm sure we'll all manage nicely."

Enjolras offers, "Won't you all sit?"

Celestine takes one of the more worn chairs in the room.

Manon quirks a smile at him, and rustles to a seat. "Thank you."

Courfeyrac takes a seat near his wife.

Enjolras looks at a clock on the wall. "I think Joly will be here shortly, and I expected Grantaire half an hour ago. Perhaps they found each other."

The little girl sets her doll on the arm of the chair. "Who're they?"

Jean drops a little self-consciously into a chair, listening. He shoots Celestine a mildly annoyed look, but it's routine.

Enjolras explains, smiling at her, mostly because she's a little girl, "Joly is an old friend of ours. Grantaire is my friend, who lives here."

Courfeyrac coughs. "Must have been all the dust on the road," he complains, then says, "It will be nice to see Alexandre again."

"It will, that." Manon eyes her daughter, ready to suppress her if she asks anything more awkward, but just then the door swings open quietly to admit a tousled but nearly-respectable Grantaire, who remarks, "Well. Look who's here."

"Ah, there you are," Enjolras says, as if this is not thoroughly obvious.

Courfeyrac grins. "Bonjour. It's good to see you, Grantaire."

Celestine is suddenly very busy with her doll. She doesn't meet many people, and usually not while she's in their house.

"Here I am," agrees Grantaire quite cheerfully, "hello, Courfeyrac. And this will be Manon. Lovely as ever. Have you trained her not to bite yet?"

Manon bares her teeth at him. "Hello, you." It's laced with affection.

The child looks up at that. "I don't bite!"

Jean looks up, embarrassed for no very good reason, and murmurs something along the lines of hello.

As host, Enjolras takes the responsibility of introductions. "That's Celestine, and, of course, Jean." In a less formal voice, he asks, "Have you seen Joly?"

Grantaire says gravely to Celestine, "I'm sure you don't," and to her brother, "ah, yes, of course. Hello, yourself. --No, not yet. He hasn't shown, I take it."

Enjolras shakes his head. "I never knew him to be all that punctual. Did you?" he turns to Courfeyrac, who, after all, knew Joly much better than Enjolras ever did or wanted to.

Courfeyrac shrugs slightly. "Not very often. He's far too distracted."

Manon concurs, "The day Joly shows up on time, I don't know what I'll do. Sing dirty ballads in the street, maybe."

Celestine shakes her head at the dolly, and doesn't understand adults. The dolly doesn't either.

Courfeyrac comments, "Haven't you done that before, ma chère? Not recently, maybe, but I seem to recall a few midnight serenades."

Enjolras shakes his head, forbearing to say anything for fear of offending Manon. Maturity apparently has some benefits.

Grantaire snickers. There is no other word for it. He shakes his head at Courfeyrac, and collapses into a seat with his usual lack of grace.

Manon kicks her husband in the ankle with only moderate force. "That must have been your other best girl."

Courfeyrac looks at her, not wounded in more than dignity. "I make a point never to settle for second best."

Jean rolls his eyes at his parents, tolerant as only teenagers can be.

Enjolras clears his throat. "So, how long before we send out the gendarmes after Joly?"

Courfeyrac shrugs. "Give him a couple of days."

The maid peeps into the room, announces, "M'sieur Joly is here," and leaves again.

Grantaire glances up. "There. Speak of the devil."

Enjolras was going to say, "Show him in," but instead he sighs and goes to fetch the visitor himself.

Courfeyrac winks at Grantaire. "Hard to find good help, isn't it?"

Grantaire half rises, then shrugs and settles back in his seat. He darts a dryly amused look at Courfeyrac. "You would know."

Joly enters, looking a little worse for wear, but with the same smile as ever. "Hello, everyone." Enjolras follows behind him. "Do sit down, Joly."

Courfeyrac smiles. "It's been too long, Joly."

Manon looks up again and smiles with real warmth. "Hello, dear."

A girl walks in. She had been chatting with the maid. She pauses in the doorway, surveying the people inside.

Jean leaves off studying the carpet to nod politely to Joly, and then to the girl. --Girl? Wonderful. He starts to look worried.

Joly looks toward the door. "This is Alissandre." He smiles only slightly. The joke is very old by now. "Alisse, Courfeyrac, Manon, Jean..." he falters at the little one's name.

Celestine looks up. Another female. That's promising, but she's a bit old. Almost Jean's age. "I'm Celestine." She asks, "Maman, why doesn't anyone know my name?"

Grantaire grins. "'lo, Joly. 'lo, Alisse-brat, you've grown again."

Manon's smile brightens. "Alissandre, of course. Hello, chere." And to Celestine: "Because we haven't seen these people since you were born, love. It's all right."

Alissandre wrinkles her nose at Grantaire, grinning. "And you've grown outward." She nods to Manon, smiling more politely. "Bonjour, madame."

"Alissandre Lesgles," Joly comments lightly.

Courfeyrac does a bit of a double take, and ends up looking more confused than he did at the beginning. "Pleased to meet you, Alissandre."

"Impertinent creature," Grantaire retorts good-naturedly, and grins again at Courfeyrac's bemusement.

Enjolras looks around the room at the collection of insane people in his parlor, and decides to refrain from commenting on any of this.

Manon chuckles, but forbears to comment on that in the girl's presence.

Celestine is subdued slightly by that. "Oh." To Alisse, she nods slightly, and then goes back to playing with her doll.

Jean casts a slightly desperate look in the direction of Enjolras, who seems to be the only other person in the room who isn't highly amused by something obscure. And happens, fortuitously, to be directly across the parlor from Alissandre.

Now that the adults have done gawking at her, Alisse pulls up a stool near Jean's chair. "It's nice to meet you, m'sieur Courfeyrac," she says quietly, and very demurely considering how she greeted Grantaire.

Enjolras notices Jean's discomfiture, and chuckles. The boy has to fend for himself. "So. How is everyone?"

Joly takes a seat. "It's all right. I don't know what to do with my patients, though." He sniffles. "I think they believe they will only get well if they infect me with their ills."

Jean jumps, caught entirely unawares. He glances over Alisse's shoulder at his mother, who is chuckling at Joly and likely to be no help at all. "...and you, mam'selle," he mutters, rather gruffly.

Grantaire makes a mock-sympathetic face. "Poor Joly."

Alisse smiles at him. Perhaps she flutters her eyelashes. "Did you have a good trip?"

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "Haven't you learned how to stay healthy yet, Joly?"

Joly wipes his nose. "I try, but it doesn't seem to work."

Jean blinks at the girl. "I suppose."

"Oh, that's good," Alisse says. She has learned or inherited her mother's manners. Poor Jean. "Do you like Paris?"

Enjolras suggests, "Perhaps if you worried more about the patients and less about yourself, it would go away." This has a familiar ring. He has probably said it at least five times.

Joly sighs. "Maybe."

"Now, now," Manon says, amused.

Courfeyrac tries to get them back to the reason for the whole visit. "How is the planning coming, for the revolution?"

Grantaire shakes his head at Joly, then leans back to gaze at the ceiling with elaborate patience. "Ah, the revolution."

Jean stares at his hands, rather than at Alisse. "I don't know yet."

Enjolras shakes his head. "I haven't heard that in a long time." A slight pause, then he observes, "I don't think I missed it."

Alisse nods as if she understands. "I'm sure you'll like it, once you get used to it." She stops listening to the adults, because they are getting off on topics she doesn't care for particularly. Besides, this boy is much more interesting.

Manon studies Enjolras. "No?"

"I don't think I did, either," Courfeyrac says mildly, looking at Manon.

"I'm not going to get used to it," Jean says a little edgily, "I'm not going to be here very long."

Enjolras shakes his head. "The last one was a mistake. This one may be, also."

Alisse makes a little sad moue. "Oh." She looks at the floor. "How sad. It's a wonderful place."

"And?" Manon is not being terribly transparent, this eve. She glances at her husband, then back to Enjolras, expectantly.

Grantaire sits up a bit, unobtrusively, to observe.

"They do not know what they are doing," Enjolras explains. "Oh, let's overthrow the government, they say, which is all very well. Heaven knows I don't care for the king. But what then, even if they can do it? And what if they cannot?"

Courfeyrac listens, shaking his head. "I'd rather be home. Where it's safe."

"Then," Manon says, very reasonably, "what are we all doing here? --Aside from having a long delayed visit, which, don't mistake me, I am enjoying."

"Don't ask me." This is a touchy subject for Courfeyrac. "I didn't want to come. No offense, Enjolras, Grantaire," he adds hastily. "It's just that this brings back too many memories."

"I'm sure," Jean murmurs after a moment to Alisse. He is not really listening to her, now; it's much more interesting and infinitely less discomfiting to eavesdrop on the adults.

Alisse has no interest in the adults. She sees his attention waver, and puts a hand on his knee. "I mean, I'll never really get to know you, will I?"

Grantaire is silent, listening with that faint expression of irony.

"It's all right, I understand." Enjolras looks sadly at Courfeyrac. "You'd think they'd have learned from our poor example."

Jean startles again, and stares at Alisse's hand as though it is an entirely foreign object. "Er. What?"

Alisse blinks at Jean. "We'll never be friends if you go home soon."

Jean just blinks back at her, speechless. He's known this girl for what, ten minutes?

Joly puts in, "It was a terrible mistake the first time. Now, I'd rather leave." It occurs to him to wonder what his daughter (or whomever's daughter she is) is doing, so he glances over., and smiles quietly to himself.

Alisse bites her lip. "I mean, that's hardly fair, is it?"

Manon leans back in her chair. "Well. If we're all agreed on that front. Unless Grantaire decides to speak up in favor of going off and building a barricade, just to be contrary." She arches a brow at him.

"He'd better not," Enjolras puts in.

Grantaire half-smiles, and shakes his head slightly.

Courfeyrac asks, as Manon did, "Why are we here, then?"

Enjolras sighs. "I thought perhaps we could change the minds of the leaders."

Courfeyrac considers this. "I suppose I could talk to them."

Manon lets out a small but eloquent hoot. "You could try."

Joly nods. "He could, at that. These aren't boys like we were. Most of them are about our age, and maybe they would listen."

"Nobody changed your mind," Grantaire points out to Enjolras, deceptively casual.

"Chantal did," Enjolras admits. "And someone else. Now, what was his name?"

"I don't recall." Grantaire half-grins. "But they were a trifle late."

Courfeyrac looks at Manon with a little despair in his eyes. He forgot how strange this all is. "You're still alive, and so am I, so it must not have been too late."

Manon shrugs, very slightly. What can she say?

Meanwhile Jean is attempting to nudge Alisse's hand free of his person. "I ... guess it wouldn't."

"And so we thought if you told them how much trouble it really was, it might change their minds," Enjolras adds.

Alisse acts as if he is not doing anything. "Really, you seem like a very nice man."

Jean goes scarlet to his ears, and can think of nothing to say, but possibly he warms to Alisse just a bit. Flattery never hurt a fifteen-year-old.

Grantaire's expression is indescribably sardonic. Very, very softly and with a fine edge of acid, he says, "Vive le roi."

Courfeyrac blinks at him. "Somehow, I don't think so."

Grantaire's eyebrows lift. "No? It sounds an awful lot like that."

Enjolras had hoped no one else heard that, and was going to deal with Grantaire later. He closes his eyes for a moment, then says, "They might hear that when you talk about the hideous truth of war, but someone will understand. They were not there. They didn't see their friends die."

Courfeyrac looks to Manon for support again. "I don't know how many times I can tell the same story."

Manon's cheeks are actually tinged with color. She gives Grantaire a long look, then glances to Enjolras. To Courfeyrac she murmurs, "I know."

Joly frowns. "We'll have to find the right people, first, then."

Grantaire fixes a level gaze on Enjolras, ignoring Manon's glare. "The guard on the corner. The sentry. You're going to talk peaceable compromise to liberty-crazed mobs? Throw a pebble in the river, mon cher." He flicks a glance at Courfeyrac. "A story's a story. There's only so much you can do. Would you have listened?" And, holding up a hand: "As you all like. I certainly don't give a damn. I detest revolutions. I detest half-heartedness too. Discount my opinion."

Jean has forgotten Alisse. He is listening wide-eyed.

Alisse has not quite forgotten Jean, but she is looking over at the adults, now.

"We have to try," Enjolras says quietly. It is an anti-climax after Grantaire's oration.

Courfeyrac looks at Grantaire almost sympathetically. "You did not see it. You don't know what it was like. A story may be only a story, but it's real, and I can do my best to make it real to them. No one else should see the things I did."

"Didn't I?" Grantaire's tone abruptly acquires a good deal more of an edge. "Don't play one-up with me, Courfeyrac, not with that. There's more to it than who was there for what." He pushes to his feet. "I told you, I don't give a damn. Do as you like, all of you; you always do." And with that, he heads for the door.

"Where are you going?" Enjolras asks sharply.

Courfeyrac shakes his head, looks at Manon, and gives up. He doesn't want to get involved in this dispute that badly.

Grantaire pauses, turns, regards him coolly. "I am absenting myself from the conference, m'sieur."

"Idiot," mutters Manon, presumably at Grantaire, and sits back, glancing at Courfeyrac helplessly.

Joly frowns. "Don't go. What kind of debate is it if everyone agrees?"

"We need to hear dissenting opinions before we do something potentially dangerous," Enjolras says, agreeing with Joly for once.

"For God's sake." Grantaire braces himself in the doorway. "Anything you do with this will be dangerous. It's a dangerous week. What do you want me to say to you?"

Jean glances at his father, brow furrowed.

"If I knew, I wouldn't have to wait for you to say it." Enjolras shakes his head slightly. "Sit down. We'll change the subject."

Courfeyrac does not particularly want to explain all of the history behind this fight. He makes himself smile for Jean's benefit.

"To what?" demands Grantaire. "This is what you're all here to talk about." But he does come back over and sit down, slouching rather more than before.

Joly wipes a hand across his face. "It's a pity the price of bread has gone up so much recently," he observes. He's trying to help, but ineffectually.

Grantaire chuckles at that in spite of himself. So does Manon, after a befuddled instant.

Courfeyrac blinks. "Has it? Not at home."

Alisse rolls her eyes and decides to resume her attentions to Jean. "He's so silly," she confides. "Parents are like that, I suppose."

Enjolras is thoroughly uninspired by this new topic, and opts to glare at Grantaire instead of commenting.

Jean looks a little surprised and considerably relieved that Alisse, for the first time, is being comprehensible. "Yes." Or, perhaps not quite so comprehensible. "...he's your father? I thought..."

Alisse smiles at him, conspiratorially. "Possibly." It is the only answer she knows.

Joly shrugs at Courfeyrac. "Well, it has here."

It's not as though Grantaire hasn't been glared at before, and fairly regularly. He does not flinch, and the look he returns is nearly challenging.

"P-Possibly..." Jean blinks. Then turns red. "Oh."

Alisse shrugs slightly. "Mama isn't sure." She grins. "They keep hoping I'll grow up to look like someone, but the only person I look like is Mama."

"Oh," Jean says again, lamely.

Courfeyrac, seeking a new subject, looks over at his son. Oh, dear. The girl is... oh, dear. Already? "Jean," he calls, to get the boy's attention.

Jean looks up swiftly, not to say gratefully. "Yes, Papa."

Alisse realizes that the reprimand was meant just as much for her, and withdraws her hand. To make amends, she gives Jean a sympathetic look.

Manon glances over then, and dark brows arch.

Courfeyrac looks at Alissandre again, in a different light. She is a pretty enough girl, and the boy's age. It is not all that bad, particularly when he thinks of his own adolescence. "Ah, nothing."

Grantaire observes this byplay sidelong, visibly amused.

Joly smiles quietly to himself. It is a distraction from his own feeble conversation, and he is not the type to disapprove of Alisse's actions.

Enjolras shakes his head slightly. Not another Musichetta. Heaven help the poor lad.

Jean blinks, and glances down again.

Alisse folds her hands primly in her lap. "Ah, the girl is sleeping," she says, looking at Celestine, because it is more appropriate to be observing a child than ogling Jean.

"Yes," Manon says a trifle dryly, "she is."

Joly mutters, "How anyone could sleep through that, I'll never know."

Courfeyrac stands. "I'll put her in bed," he volunteers, then gently picks up Celestine, who does not wake, and leaves the room.

Manon's sharp features relax into a smile, and she reaches up to pat her daughter as they go by.

Grantaire watches the departure with a milder expression than is his wont, before glancing back at the others.

Enjolras clears his throat. "I should probably make certain everything is ready for breakfast tomorrow." It sounds like an excuse, and it is. He gives Grantaire what must be termed a come-hither look, though it is not done with bedroom eyes, then nods to his guests and departs.

Jean ventures politely, "Good night, m'sieur."

Joly frowns slightly. "Everyone is leaving at once. Well. Manon. How have you been? I know you've written to 'chetta from time to time, but she doesn't exactly share her correspondence with me."

Manon subsides into her chair. "Oh, all right. Keeping busy."

"I can see that," Joly says, smirking, with a glance at Jean.

After a moment Grantaire murmurs, "If you all will excuse me," and pushes to his feet. On his way to the door he pauses, leaning down to remark in the ears of Alisse and Jean, "I would recommend the window seat," before slipping out.

Manon chuckles. "Now, now." She blinks at Grantaire a moment. "...'course."

Alisse blinks, or, more precisely, flutters her eyelashes at Jean. "That sounds like good advice. Then, you can look out and see the street."

Jean goes scarlet to his ears. "...Oh."

Joly is only a little surprised at this departure. "Take care," he murmurs as Grantaire leaves.

Manon quirks a smile at her offspring, and nods slightly, as though to tell him to seize the day. No help from that quarter.

Enjolras is rather impatiently waiting in his own room, which has several more piles of things in it than normal. This does not improve his temper, though it was his idea to have the Courfeyrac clan come to visit.

Presently Grantaire enters, without comment, shuts the door neatly and pauses to lean one arm against the wall, regarding him.

"What is wrong with you?" Enjolras asks. "I thought revolutions were stupid and a horrible waste of time, but no, we should not try to stop this."

"I apologize, monsieur. It wasn't my place." Grantaire's humility is nearly seamless, except for the glitter of irony in his eyes.

Enjolras shakes his head. "Answer the question, will you? It's very much your place to object. You just have to explain why you're on the opposite side from where you used to stand."

Grantaire leans back against the wall with a sigh, folding his arms. "Maybe I was just being contrary."

"I'm willing to accept that as a possibility, but not a full explanation." Enjolras sits on the bed with a sigh. "It doesn't make sense."

"And neither do you, my friend. You -- you want to go out and actively dissuade the advocates of freedom and justice, monsieur? Leave well enough alone, yes, that I believe, and I don't blame you. But call together les Amis for the sake of trying to put down an uprising -- Who's on the opposite side, pray tell?"

"Perhaps we both are," Enjolras allows, "but that doesn't explain why you've decided to support foolish, dangerous idealists. Don't do that to me. Not now."

Grantaire glances down. "You're against this for the wrong reasons," he says presently. "You're not against it because the time isn't right, or because you seriously think it's better not. You're against it because '32 still has you scared, and you think you can change that if you change this."

Enjolras sighs deeply. "I suppose you're right. Getting in the way of progress won't change anything, will it?" He looks up at Grantaire. "I only wish it could. But it's a different time, now, and different men are there. At least I won't know their names."

Grantaire pushes away from the wall, and comes over to sit down beside him and put an arm about his shoulders. "I know. I do know. I don't like it, either." A pause, then, very quietly, "Stay clear of it. Please."

Enjolras takes a deep breath. "I will, when it starts, if it starts. If we cannot change anything." It sounds like a promise.

"Thank you." Grantaire's arm tightens around him briefly. And, a trifle awkwardly: "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I would not survive long without opposition." Enjolras kisses him on the cheek. "I need to hear that I am wrong, and why."

Grantaire quirks that crooked half-grin. "There, now. I knew there was some reason you keep me around."

"There had to be something, didn't there?"

"One would think."

Enjolras kisses him again. "One would."

Grantaire returns the kiss this time, smoothing his hair, and is quiet for a bit.

"So I'm not allowed to rouse the populace?" Enjolras asks, eventually.

"Wretch." Grantaire tightens his hold again. "You'd be too damned good at it."

"And so I shouldn't? Really, I thought your objection was that we wouldn't do any good."

"You know what my objection is, and it has nothing to do with the government." As the truth comes out. "And you wouldn't, in the end."

Enjolras pokes him in the leg. "I'd be home before anything real happened. I won't know if I could have helped unless I try."

Grantaire sighs. "Either they'll get what they're after without your help, or they won't and there's nothing you can do."

"You don't know that." This is the sticking point, and since no one else knows, either, Enjolras does not want to back down.

Grantaire looks as though he's thinking of an exasperated outburst, but all he says is, dryly, "Of course not. I don't know anything. We knew that."

"Stop that. You sound like me." Enjolras prods him again. "You know many things, but you don't know revolutions."

"Don't I?" He is irritable, now. "Just because I didn't get mixed up in them doesn't mean I wasn't there."

"Observation and planning are totally different." It sounds opaque, but it is not much of an aphorism. "I know damn well you were there, but you certainly weren't in charge of anything."

Grantaire shoots a glance at him. "Maybe an observer's what you need. Maybe all you lapsed radicals are too involved."

"Involved?" Never mind the lapsed comment, that hits too close to home. It's easier to object to something that isn't true. "We're not involved enough. That's the trouble."


Enjolras looks down at himself overdramatically. "Yes, that would be me."

Grantaire fails to be diverted. "Don't do this to me," he says in his turn.

"You'll be all right," Enjolras reassures him. "You were, then, and that time, I was running into the battle. I won't, not this time. I only want to stop it, not fan the flames."

"Oh, damn you." And Grantaire pulls him close, burying his face in his hair. "Damn you, bloody... stubborn... fair-haired boy. Promise me you'll be safe, that's all."

"Stay with me. Then you'll be sure of it." Enjolras embraces him.

... Previous ... Book Three ... Table of Contents ... Next ...